As Marie Stopes International strives to meet the needs of a growing youth population – our largest future client base – gaining insight into how we can better serve young people is critical. In two separate workshops facilitated by the Centre for Digital Storytelling in Papua New Guinea and Ghana, a total of 15 young people affiliated with Marie Stopes International and its partners came together to learn digital storytelling techniques in order to share their personal stories with a wider audience.

Tackling such challenging subjects such as pregnancy resulting from rape, teen fatherhood, unsafe abortion, relationships, sexually transmitted infections, peer pressure and first sexual experiences, the young participants wrote their own scripts, took their own photos and videos, and helped edit their own stories, creating first person two-three minute digital shorts that highlight the challenges and some solutions to youth sexual and reproductive health. The resulting short films and radio spots will be used as peer education tools, in advocacy for improved SRH services for young people, and in awareness raising activities in country and with a wider global audience.

Participants ranged in age from 16-25 and came from all walks of life. From high school students in Papua New Guinea, to market porters (kayayei) in Ghana, from rural farmers to urban youth, what the young participants had in common was their desire to be heard, to share their struggles so that others may learn from them. In Ghana, the nine participants recorded stories in seven distinct languages and the workshop was the first of its kind in the country.

Noah Wakai, a participant from Papua New Guinea said that “the workshop has given me the chance to share my experience, and has opened a door for me to see the issues that are rarely talked about due to stigma and cultural barriers. It gives us the courage to tell other Papua New Guineans that it’s not right for women to suffer due to stigma and lack of health services. It is our responsibility to care for the girls affected”.

And in Ghana, Sulemana Adams said of the project “I am so humbled by all these stories. I always thought I went through the most terrible experience as a young boy until I heard other stories from these young people. I feel so relieved after sharing my story and I am happy I have shared my story to help other young people too.”

While the outputs from the workshops will be invaluable tools to enhance our peer education, advocacy and awareness raising activities both locally and globally, the participants themselves also left the workshops having become greater advocates and ambassadors for improved sexual and reproductive health in their countries.